The Dominican Republic’s Senate passed a bill granting citizenship to children born in the Dominican Republic to migrant parents on the night of May 21st, following the approval of the law by the Cámara de Diputados (Chamber of Deputies) last Friday. Senator Cristina Lizardo, from Santo Domingo requested that the legislation be passed in urgency bypassing normal procedures and the bill was passed after two readings. The law only needs the president’s signature to go into effect.
Dominican Republican President Danilo Medina proposed the legislation after the country received international criticism due to a Constitutional Court ruling from September 2013 that determined that the children of immigrants could not be considered citizens because their parents came to the Dominican Republic “in transit”. The country was accused of racism by its Caribbean neighbors, who believed the law specifically targeted the Haitian community that make up the majority of immigrants to the Dominican Republic. Tensions flared between Haiti and the Dominican Republic leading both countries to recall their ambassadors.
The law seeks to provide a path to citizenship for the children of immigrants that had been irregularly recorded or are not registered in the Dominican Civil Registry. Some argue that the law still discriminates against people who do not have documentation, but the Dominican government says that they can apply for naturalization two years after registering with this system. Haitian Prime Minister, Laurent Lamothe, expressed approval of the new law, a sign that the countries may fully reestablish diplomatic relations.
Stay tuned to hear more on this debate in our summer issue of America’s Quarterly which will feature a co-authored article from Haitian author Edwidge Danticat and Dominican author Junot Diaz.